(Image: Header Graphic)

Monday, May 27, 2024

Doug's Domain

Doug Vetter, ATP/CFI

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Friday, December 22, 2023

Architects Gone Mad, The Sequel

Fast forward a few weeks. I've gone through another 4 architects. One said the project wasn't in their wheelhouse. One responded that she was interested but needed a few more days to review my document before she could provide a quote (fair enough, it's a long document). A third simply said "no thanks". The fourth, one of the largest firms in the area, said that they have too much work, short deadlines, and that they would have to give me a non-competitive quote to compensate for their lack of availability, so rather than do that they would simply decline. But before the large firm gave me the shove off I did speak with one of its principals and he gave me some very enlightening information.

He said that my county, despite having a mailing address of the local town, is not a part of the town and thus not subject to its building codes and policies. He clarified that in rural communities it is common for there to be no plans review or inspections on structures no taller than three floors and less than 5000 square feet. I later confirmed with this with the town. All that's needed to build are septic and electrical permits, for which some rudimentary building information is necessary. The architect added that if I want to develop a full set of plans that's fine, but the requirement for plans would be between me and the builder. Now THAT is freedom from government and standards-bodies oppression.

That led me to text my brother for his architect's contact information and I called him to gauge his interest in my project. He quickly confirmed what I already assumed -- that architects need to be licensed in each state in which they intend to stamp plans -- and added that while he did not have a license in Tennessee and he could not stamp plans in that state, he has worked on projects outside of the states in which he is licensed by partnering with a local architect to stamp the plans.

At this point I brought up the rural communities policy in Tennessee and asked him if he would be willing to design the project to conform with current TN state codes. If the price is right, I figure I'll have him design the building and then simply give the plans to the builders for quotes. They won't be stamped, but as long as no one cares about that, I'm good to go. I'm liking Tennessee more every day.

(Image: Version 6 of barndo first floor plan)

The other interesting tidbit of information my brother's architect gave me is that it is possible in most states to design your own home and submit the plans for approval (where approval is required, of course). This is what my brother did for his building in New Jersey and what I had already considered doing in Tennessee. The potential downside to this approach is that the lender may not underwrite a project designed by an owner unless it is reviewed and stamped by an architect, PE or other industry professional.

In light of this new information I have decided that I'll likely build the structures to conform with the current Tennessee state requirements including the 2018 IRC since the lender may not approve the construction loan otherwise, but I do very much intend to take liberties in the areas of energy efficiency since no one is going to tell me that a 2x6 R21 exterior wall assembly or R38 roof assembly consisting of nothing but some dimensional lumber and mineral wool bats is going to drive my energy costs up significantly as compared to some 2x10 R30 wall or R60 roof monstrosity.

More Design Changes

My brother's 40x80 garage can support two vehicles in a single deep bay but just barely. Whenever he has his roughly 25 foot long pickup truck in the bay, the rear of my roughly 14 foot long GTI has to be parked uncomfortably close to the garage door to fit.

For this reason, and because I'm convinced at this point that I will have to wait longer to build the house and its attached garage for lack of budget, I've decided to increase the depth of the workshop in the barndominium to 50 feet as required to comfortably fit two cars in each of the two bays, or 4 cars total. This will allow me to house my two classic BMWs, the GTI and a possible future project car.

The IT room and Mechanical room have been moved to the center of the structure between the residence and garage, mostly because that is the best place from which to distribute those services. As well, a laundry room straddles the two spaces to allow me to use the sink and clothes washing facilities without disturbing the guests in the residence and it also allows me to restrict guess access to the workshop.

I've also redesigned the garage to remove the loft I'd planned, as I realized hauling heavy stuff up and down stairs is not my bag anymore, and some pallet racks would be a far more cost effective and convenient solution for general storage in the garage. I could even buy a forklift to get materials up and down from the top shelves. A secondary benefit of this change is the elimination of the second floor framing, which should ultimately simplify and reduce the cost of the roof framing.

Due to the delay of the home build I've redesigned the apartment to serve as more of a semi-permanent residence. The floor plan has been changed to match the depth of the garage and widened as necessary to provide a decent sized kitchen and living room area as well as a full sized master suite including a bathroom and walk-in closet. The kitchen also now has a pantry and the first floor sports a 1/2 bath to serve the public area of the residence.

The residence loft remains, though I'm not sure what I'll put up there yet -- an office or a second master suite. I'm leaning toward the master suite because there are no hotels within a reasonable drive of the property and I want to offer guests a place to stay. In short, I've turned the once humble utility building into a barndominium. It should look something like this:

Concept of barndominium exterior